Vanson Leathers has a great history behind their brand, one that can’t really go un-noticed. Vanson has been a symbol for motorcycle riders alike for centuries
We were able to recently visit the Vanson building in Fall River, MA and talk to Mike Van Der Sleeson, founder of Vanson Leathers. Mike reflects on his decision to make their goods entirely in the USA.
A history and full detailed story on Vanson thanks to Army of Darkness the motorcycle Road racing team.
Vanson (a contraction of the last names of Van der Sleesen and his original, but brief arrangement with a partner) was founded in 1974. Van der Sleesen had been working in France at a motorcycle dealer at the time and had been traveling to England to pick up parts and supplies.
Keep in mind this was when the sun was setting on the English motorcycle empire but there were still several marques thrashing around in their death throes.
While Van der Sleesen was on one trip he made a contact in England to distribute English made leathers in the United States. England was then having difficulty producing much of anything at the time (sort of like the US today) and the English leathers production facility (a row house) was unable to produce.
Van der Sleesen took over the designs and brought the production facility to Boston in probably one of the last episodes of off-shoring English manufacturing to its former colony. Van der Sleesen opened Vanson Leathers on Thayer Street in Boston where it both produced and sold leathers from 1975 to 1988.
Van der Sleesen, a man of both vision and diverse talents, set about building a modern manufacturing operation with both software and logistic systems.
Pointer Brand was founded in 1913 by L.C. King in Bristol, Virginia, USA. King started the company with the intent of making durable and affordable overalls, carpenter jeans, denim chore coats and other outdoor clothing for the working man. His brand was the culmination of his experiences raising champion bird dogs in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. He made clothing for the working man, clothing he felt would make jobs easier and last a long time.
Lost Garage and Handmade America are the brain children of Chicago’s Ryan Lange–Chicago native and motorcycle enthusiast.Lost Garage was born a few years ago, focusing on old Harley and Japanese bikes. Since then the company has grown to be a source for independent, handmade motorcycle parts and apparel. In addition, Lange has accrued a riding collective by the same name, the members of which frequently blog about their adventures, giving insight to the lifestyle and culture.
ilson, the maker behind Tin Cloth, presents this look inside the factory of fellow American heritage brand Horween. The video takes us behind the scenes of the historic Horween leather factory in Chicago, where the brand continues to produce some of the finest leathers in the industry, including those used for Filson’s new leather totes and accessories, which are made with traditional craftsmanship techniques and an uncompromising commitment to quality.
James Roper-Caldbeck is English, lives in Denmark, and builds custom Harley-Davidsons. It sounds like a League of Nations recipe for disaster, but fear not—James has an amazingly good eye for stance and proportions.
This long, low Panhead is James’ latest creation, a ground-up build for a customer from Romania. Panhead customs are two-a-penny, but as you can see, this one is a level above the norm.
The starter bike was in bad shape, but when it arrived in James’ Copenhagen workshop, it was in good hands. James rebuilt the engine and brakes, and replaced every bushing and bearing on the whole machine—from the forks to the wheels.
The original Harley frame had been butchered too, with 36 holes drilled into it, so James re-welded it and cleaned it up to better-than-factory spec.
After that (and a whole lot more) was done, the fun could begin,” he recalls. “I fabricated a new set of bars from the old ones—which were so wide, I couldn’t get them through my shop door!” The 3½ gallon tanks were narrowed, then pulled back and raised on the frame. James also made a blanking panel out of aluminum, which now houses the ignition switch and warning lights
The rear fender is a reconfigured 1930s Ford spare wheel cover, and James built a mini sissy bar to hold the vintage rear light.
Straight exhaust pipes are hooked up to trumpet-style mufflers, which reportedly sound glorious. The foot controls and brake brackets were de-chromed and Parkerized, a process that was used on metal parts before chroming was available.
The final touches were to convert the Panhead to a foot clutch with a police-style shifter, and chop down the original seat pan and cover it with tan leather from an old suitcase.